Ian Patrick, FISM News
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves throughout the world as multiple nations gathered to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government for their aggression against the Ukrainian people. These shockwaves have been so intense that it may seemingly convince two typically “neutral” nations to join the fray.
Polls show that Sweden and Finland, though previously staunch on their stances of refusing to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), may be influenced by the Russo-Ukrainian conflict to join the alliance.
Both nations are among a total of 11 European nations with no NATO membership. Other nations that have stayed out of the alliance include Ireland, Switzerland and Austria, to name a few. Despite not being members, all of these nations do have some sort of partnership with NATO.
Yet, recent polls from both Sweden and Finland suggest that their citizens are looking to join the treaty. Finnish news source YLE presented a poll on Feb. 28 which said that 53 percent of the country’s citizens would support the application to join NATO, while 28 percent oppose the notion and 19 percent remain unsure. This is the first time a poll has shown the majority of Finnish people supporting their country joining NATO.
According to YLE, this poll “represents a historic change in Finns’ attitudes to NATO membership.” YLE had asked the same questions in 2017 about applying to join NATO, and only 19 percent said they would support the move. Even in January of this year, Taloustutkimus asked the same question on behalf of MTV Uutiset. That poll showed only 30 percent supported Finland’s NATO membership.
The head of research at Taloustutkimus said that the Finnish people were changing their views on the global landscape “with figures for support and opposition to Nato membership essentially swapping,” according to reporting by YLE.
The numbers from Finland’s poll are almost identical to those from Sweden, where a survey from Aftonbladet / Demoskop from February of this year shows that 51 percent of the Swedish people want to apply for NATO membership. Just over a quarter (27%) of the people oppose membership, while just under a quarter (22%) of them are not sure.
A similar survey from January of this year showed much closer results at the time, with only 42 percent of Swedes supporting the move while 37% were against it. Karin Nelsson, CEO of Aftonbladet / Demoskop, remarked that the situation in Ukraine has highlighted a security issue in Sweden since both nations are not current NATO members.
While the governments of Finland and Sweden have not made any official applications to NATO yet, both have been stepping up their security partnerships with the organization. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Helsinki that the Russian invasion ” puts the European security order at risk,” according to reporting by Reuters.
Concerning NATO membership, Marin further said she and her office “will have these discussions within parliament, with the president, within the government and between the parties.” Andersson also alluded to a discussion with her government saying they “are discussing a number of issues.”
NATO Sectary General Jens Stoltenberg remarked that both countries could join “very quickly” if they applied to be members.
President Biden even hinted at a deepening relationship between the two northern European nations and the United States. On March 4, Biden invited Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to the White House to discuss “European security” and ended up calling Sweden’s Andersson “to discuss enhancing our cooperation.”
Today I welcomed President Niinistö of Finland to the White House to talk about European security. During our meeting, we called PM Magdalena Andersson of Sweden to discuss enhancing our cooperation. Both countries are valued defense partners to the United States and NATO. pic.twitter.com/F15RdYcdpa
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 5, 2022
However, the threat of two more nations being aligned with NATO has put the Russian government on edge. On Feb. 25 Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a press conference that both Finland and Sweden should avoid joining NATO. Zakharova said that “their accession to NATO can have detrimental consequences and face some military and political consequences.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia echoed these threats on Twitter.
Both the Finnish and Swedish governments have responded saying that Moscow will not dictate how they handle their policies on security. Sweden’s Andersson reportedly said that Sweden “itself and independently decides on our security policy line.”